“Thank you for calling the personal credits information line, my name is Ethan, how may I help you?”
These words are spoken chirpily, with a mix of both dread and curiosity. Chirpy, because the client demands it; dread, because there’s always the possibility of receiving abuse directed at the client; and curiosity, because who wouldn’t be curious?
Most of my work is mundane and procedural: change of addresses, questions about deadlines, explanations about paperwork, and the like. But it’s the steady drip of personal stories which frankly will make someone as cold-hearted as Ioseb Jugashvili reflect on self-purpose and worth.
From the man who used four-letter words to describe incidents in residential schools and hurled them at me…to the couple who say they need money for renovations or else their home will be condemned…to the grandmother who plans to take a creative writing course to write a book about her fourteen years in (her words) “that hellhole”…to another grandmother who complained about “us real Indians” being ignored by “those people”. But why should I feel emotional about it? After all, it’s not like I can complain about my pay.
None of this comes as a surprise to anyone. But Zhuge Liang summed it up best when he said that reading ten thousand scrolls is not worth walking ten thousand miles. In his day, of course, walking literally meant walking.
As anyone who’s ever hiked back-country knows, those ten thousand miles will be riven with twists, turns, and obstacles. No one expects me to work on aboriginal issues for too long, but this is what I view from my location.
How has the view changed along your walk?